<bt>Keenan Hero was only a baby when suicide bombers flew planes into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center four years ago, but despite this, the 5-year-old Great Falls Elementary kindergarten student diligently held a lit candle and took an hour out of his Sunday evening to remember those who were killed in the tragedy.
“I knew someone in my school [who was affected],” said Hero.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, community members gathered at Freedom Plaza on Georgetown Pike for a candlelight memorial service to remember those who died in the 9/11 attacks. Great Falls lost six residents to the attacks — Retired USMC 1st Lt. Richard P. Gabriel, Ann C. Judge, Barbara K. Olson, Lisa J. Raines, Diane M. Simmons and George W. Simmons.
A little over 100 people showed up for the ceremony, and journalist Frank Sesno — the former Washington, D.C. bureau chief and senior vice president for CNN — was the guest speaker at the event. Sesno, a resident of Great Falls, has been chronicling events as a journalist for more than 25 years. He spoke about his experience on a flight to Boston just after the attacks, describing how the pilot spoke on the plane intercom and urged every passenger to "look into the eyes of the person next to you and see them as family."
"He's just a wonderful person and he really spoke from the heart," said Rev. Paul Gysan of Great Falls. Gysan, the pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Church, is a member of the Friends of Great Falls Freedom Memorial, and as such helped to organize Sunday's gathering.
Dranseville District Supervisor Joan DuBois served as the mistress of ceremonies for the event, and at the close of the service she urged everyone to follow the example of Frank Sesno's Boston plane experience and turn to the person next to them to look them in the eye.
Keenan Hero’s father Greg Hero said that he and his wife Susan decided to bring their family to the service because they wanted to make sure that their children were aware of such a significant moment in our country’s history.
“It’s important to pass the memory on to our kids,” said Hero, adding that the memorial service was "touching without being overdone."
Hero's wife agreed that the ceremony was done tastefully.
“It was very good and very meaningful,” said Susan Hero.
THE SERVICE WAS attended by more than just residents of Great Falls. Corey and Stacy Stephen came because they are members of Christ the King of Lutheran Church.
“We just heard about it through [Pastor Gysan] and saw a sign for it at church, and we just wanted to come,” said Stacy Stephen.
Money was also collected for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and approximately $374 was collected among those in attendance.
"We were very pleased about that," said Gysan. He noted that collection cups for further donations to victims of Hurricane Katrina can be found in the Great Falls Community Library and throughout the Great Falls area.